Driver Distractions - Don't Be a Statistic

Distractions Are Everywhere

Driving is a skill that requires your full attention to safely control your vehicle and respond to events happening on the roads around you. Driving involves constant and complex coordination between your mind and body. Events or things that prevent you from operating your car safely are distractions. There are three types of distractions and they are anything that takes your:

  • eyes off the road (visual).
  • mind off the road (cognitive).
  • hands off the steering wheel (manual).

When you think about the actions you make in your vehicle, other than just driving, you can see that they often involve more than one type of distraction. For instance, if you change your radio station, you take a hand off the steering wheel to press a button, and take your eyes off the road to look at what button you want to press.

Driving Distractions Study

Driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle crashes and near-crashes. According to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction. The distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash!

According to the NHTSA and VTTI study, the principal actions that cause distracted driving and lead to vehicle crashes are:

  • cell phone use.
  • reaching for a moving object inside the vehicle.
  • looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle.
  • reading.
  • applying makeup.

Drivers who engage more frequently in distracted driving are more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash or near-crash.

“Dial D” for Disaster

Cell phone use has become so popular these days that many times we don’t realize when, where, and how often we are utilizing our “cellular telephones.” Cell phone use while driving has increased so significantly within the last few years that at any typical daytime moment, as many as 10% of drivers are using either a hand-held or hands-free phone.

Studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and near-crashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Make and finish your cell phone calls before you start your vehicle and drive. If your phone rings while you are driving, let your voicemail pick up the call. If you must answer your phone, pull over to a safe location and park before using your cell phone.

New cell phone laws took effect July 1, 2008 in California. Drivers age 18 and over may use hands-free devices while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use any type of hand-held or hands-free wireless phone while driving.

Are You Eating a Crash Diet?

If you are eating in your vehicle while driving, you are focusing on your food and not on your driving. You are not only chewing and swallowing; you are also opening packages, unwrapping and re-wrapping food, reaching, leaning, spilling, wiping, and cleaning yourself or your vehicle. These are quite a number of distractions for one driver on one trip. You are safer when you stop to eat or drink. Allow yourself plenty of time to stop, rest from driving, and enjoy your meal.

Are You Being Driven to Distraction?

What do children, friends, and pets all have in common? All can be a dangerous distraction to you while you are driving.

Teach your young children that driving is an important job and that you must concentrate when you are behind the wheel. Buckle up your children properly. Give them distractions—books, games, or other appropriate toys to occupy their time. If you need to attend to your children, pull over to a safe place. Don’t try to handle children while you are driving.

When you are driving with friends and relatives, establish some strategies to keep your passengers under control. A carload of friends can be very distracting with loud talking, quarrelling over music selections, or horseplay. Arguments and other disturbing conversations should be held in a safe, appropriate place, not while you are driving in your vehicle.

A loose pet in a moving vehicle can be very dangerous. Properly secure your pet in a pet carrier, portable kennel, or specially designed pet harness when you are driving. Never allow your pet to sit in your lap while you are driving your vehicle.

Turning Dials Can Turn Your Head

Making destination entries on an in-vehicle navigation system, radio surfing for a good song, or adjusting your vehicle’s climate controls are distracting activities that can put you in danger of a vehicle crash or near-crash. The availability of in-vehicle Internet and e-mail access from cell phones, blackberries, and other portable devices are added distractions that increase your risk of a crash if you engage in these activities while driving.

  • Adjust vehicle’s controls (climate controls, mirrors, radio, seat, etc.) before you begin to drive.
  • Check your e-mail, voicemail, and any other portable devices you have before you begin driving.
  • Take advantage of normal stops to adjust controls.
  • Ask your passenger to adjust the radio, climate control, navigation system, etc. for you.

Looks Can Kill…

Looking out your window at what you are passing while you are driving can be a distraction if you are concentrating on getting a good look at:

  • an accident
  • a vehicle pulled over by law enforcement
  • construction work
  • a billboard advertisement
  • a scenic view
  • street names and addresses

Always focus on your driving. It’s crucial that you remain alert while on the road to arrive at your destination safely.

Distractions and Young

The leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds are vehicle crashes. Vehicle crashes make up approximately one-third of all deaths for this age group. More crashes occur when passengers, usually other teens, are in the vehicle with a teen driver. Two out of three teens die as passengers in a vehicle driven by another teen.

These statistics are caused by a teenager’s immaturity, driving inexperience, overconfidence, and risk-taking behaviors. Before your teen takes to the road, explain to him/her the dangers of participating in distracting activities and driving. Many teens do not see the connection between the things that distract them and their age group’s high rate of vehicle crashes and death.

Give your teen strategies and rules to help them keep their passengers under control. No horseplay, inciting the driver to speed or engaging in any other type of dangerous activity while riding in a vehicle.

Instruct your teen to set up his/her in-vehicle radio, CD player, IPOD or any other in-vehicle music playing device before driving and to play the music at a listening level that is not distracting. Wearing headphones or earplugs is illegal in California regardless of the age of a driver.

Talk with your teen about how to deal with driving distractions. Discuss what could happen if he/she tries to answer a cell phone, send a text message, search for music, or spill a drink on themselves while they are driving. Explain the importance of driving safely and staying alive.

Other Deadly Distractions

In this age of multi-tasking, it is common to do more than one task at the same time. You already multi-task when you are driving; your mind and body are working simultaneously to drive your vehicle. You should not add another task on top of what you already need to do to drive safely. These tasks should never be done while you are driving:

  • Reading a newspaper, a book, or a map.
  • Personal grooming, such as hair grooming, shaving, or applying makeup.
  • Smoking and dealing with lighting up, putting out cigarettes, or falling ashes.
  • Working in your car: typing on a laptop, making business calls, and writing notes or reports.

Undistracted Driving

When you are driving, the condition of the roadway you are on and the behavior of other drivers can change abruptly, leaving you little or no time to react. When you are driving, follow these rules:

  • Stay focused.
  • Pay attention.
  • Expect the unexpected.

These tips can help you continue to drive and arrive at your destination safely:

  • Follow the advice in this brochure
  • Ensure all passengers are buckled-up properly.
  • Be well-rested and in the appropriate mindset to drive. Driving while you are upset or angry can be just as dangerous as driving when you are tired.
  • Help your teen identify and reduce distractions when he/she is driving.
  • Do not tailgate.
  • Allow sufficient time to reach your destination.
  • Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained.

Driver distractions reduce your awareness to your driving environment, your decision-making process and your driving performance. This results in crashes or near-crashes and corrective actions having to be taken by you and/or other drivers on the road.

Drive safe and stay alive. Keep your mind on your driving, keep your eyes on the road, and your hands on the wheel!

 

FFDL 28 (REV. 4/2010) WWW (REV. 4/2011)